Many years ago, Addidas had a great poster describing what they called the '7 Stages of Marathon'. It is a nice way to explain why so many of our first-time runners keep coming back for future marathons...
Editor's note: Blog from our alum runner from 2010, Bharat Thudi. Bharat completed his first marathon with TAA in 2010 and completed Boston marathon in 2011.
The thought goes back about three years ago when I had a manager who had run the Boston marathon more than 7 or 8 times, and another colleague who trained and ran the Boston marathon that year. At that point, I had no idea about the specifics of a marathon: neither the distance, nor the qualification criteria for Boston. I wanted to give it a shot. I could run about 2 to 3 miles, which I thought was quite impressive. It was a humbling experience, being brought back to earth, after learning about the distance and qualifying criteria. A silly argument with Lahari, “my better half” on a New Year’s Eve 2009, resulted in venting my anger by running 10 miles on New Year’s Day! That was the day I made my resolution that I would run on all 5 weekdays for the whole year. Fortunately, there was a gym downstairs, and it helped. In Addition to my New Years resolution, I was able to complete a half marathon and about three 5k's that year. At the end of the year, I realized that I should be running outdoors to train for a Marathon.
AID/Asha Training program:
In 2010, I heard from one of my friends about the AID/Asha program and we thought of giving it a try. During the initial information session, Rita was an inspiration when she spoke about her run - she used to drive from Rhode Island every weekend to train for the marathon. Along with 2 of my friends “Sadik & Ruma”, we signed up for the initial runs, but the other two had to drop out for genuine reasons. Initially, I recall speaking only with Manan during the initial runs, but as we progressed, the whole group got closer. Had the good fortune of running most of my runs with Aaditya, Priyanka and Rahul “APR”. It was fun listening to APR’s choosy ‘ghaalisor’ on the motorists and their humourous conversations for water and direction support. I’m sure I’d be in the same boat had I not been part of this group, and would have inadvertently discovered new towns enroute. Every member of the Team helped at some point of the training. SK rowed along one of the runs and also ran the whole marathon with Ketki, Amol tagged along and helped Anjali the whole season, and he did help me on one of our runs too. Nalin ran and helped Pratima. The post runs brunch sessions were pretty good where we got to try many new restaurants. A couple of the social events were helpful, where we got to know more about the organization we were training for, its activities and people. Coach Jonathan helped in advising us about diet, the importance of stretching, weekly runs and innumerable other tips. Uday's email towards the end of the season was an inspiration for us to be persistent. Biju Kalissery, the overall program coordinator helped with fund raising tips, weekly reminders, and running tips. Water Support was an integral part; I realized their importance later on when I trained alone. All the volunteers: Amritha, Aravind, Arachana, Pradeep, Abhishek, Priya, Manan, and the whole water support team helped very much. They would wait patiently for precious long hours during weekends to help with the water support. The Marine Corps Marathon was a good experience, and strangely I experienced no anxiety as the whole group was present. We had a great time on the day before the marathon, at the expo, and at the hostel. It was memorable run. Even after the training most of us have remained good friends. I have enjoyed meeting every member of the group and a few of us ventured on a road trip too. It was one of my best lifetime experiences and I enjoyed training with the team for a great cause.
The Email: On Feb 18th 2011, the entire AID Asha group received an email from Santosh about the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon ‘BM’, through another charity. For a second, I thought it was unrealistic since it was only 2 months to the 'D' day ‘Apr 18th’. I was still curious though and wrote back to Santosh to check if anyone had replied back. Only ‘Kishore’ had, but he had not committed yet. I spoke with Rahul and finally made up my mind to run and wrote to Santosh the next day. The next part was that they did not know if they had the number to run the BM.... I kept emailing back to know if they heard anything yet. On Feb 28th, they said that they will be sending me an application form and after i mail it out, i will know from the BAA if I can get a number. I received the application and mailed it out on Mar 1st, and after that waited anxiously. On Mar 8th i received an email from BAA that I have a number to run. I was worried about getting the number and finally when I got the number, I realized that i should be training for it..I didn't want to tell people about it as I was not sure, how my training would go and if I would be able to complete it.
Training for Boston: I had joined YMCA in February and was running about 2 to 3 days a week. After getting the confirmation email from BAA, I started running four one hour runs on the weekdays and the long run on Saturdays. Training brought about significant changes in my lifestyle, most notably my diet. To make things worse, Lahari was in India and I had lost interest in cooking. Ruma saved me by inviting me for dinner and packing the next day’s lunch many a time. Some friends at work Amos/Anne and Lakshmi, bought me home cooked lunch a couple of times. I had stopped eating meat since November so eating out was not feasible anymore. Chaffing was a common issue as I ran in cotton shirts for the weekly runs. Cutting chilli's to cook and then going into the shower was one of the most painful experiences..:), I ended up learning a couple of new dance moves too!. We are being adviced by folks to cut down on carbs and rice, but for me, I ate rice almost every day. Being a farmer’s son, it was hard for me to replace rice from my diet. I didn’t want my dad to go into any loss..:). I felt I needed calcium, so started drinking whole milk with 2 spoons of sugar, a few drops of honey, and 2.5 spoons of horlicks, the 1/2 spoon straight into my mouth! I began eating fruits on the way to work. My long runs mostly on Saturday’s consisted of 11, 13, 15, 20 and 11 miles. The cricket world cup final was on the 20 mile day and it was fun checking the phone for the latest scores. Fortunately I was able to watch the last 10 overs and victory celebrations at home. Long runs on the treadmill were not fun, as sometimes there were people waiting. Water and Lemon juice - 2 limes, 2 spoons of sugar, salt to taste - were the best hydrating agents for all my runs. After Lahari returned on Apr 5th, life was far easier. The main thing that had me worrying was that i had not run a single mile outdoors the whole time while training. There was snow a couple of weekends and I didn't want to take the chance of getting injured or running low on fluids for the long runs. I did miss water support from the Asha team. I had these thoughts in my head while heading into the 'D' day.
D day: D’Day arrived and I remember being told by Lahari to stop at any point if I didn't feel good during the run. I love running earlier in the day and wondered why they had the 10:40am starttime. I didn't have to wait long for the answer. After reaching the Park 'T' station at 7.00am, the number of people waiting for the school buses to Hopkinton was quite a spectacle. There were long lines and the volunteers shouting out:"Don't worry about the buses, they have heated seats and DVD players” and trying to calm the runners. It was about an hour and a half journey to the Athlete's village in Hopkinton high school. The whole place had "port-o-johns" - portable potties - with long queues. There were people ‘men/women’ under every tree and it reminded me of my village where an early morning walk along the road could be quite an experience. It also reminded me of my MCM adventure where I had the honor of watering the trees behind the Pentagon! The morning was quite chilly and there was a lot of wind. There were smart people who had bought blankets, warm clothes and most people were wearing trash bags. They had food - bagels, bananas, sport bars, water, Gatorade, and good music in the village. At about 10.20, the announcement for the Coral(9) runners came up.
The Run: While walking towards the start line, runners had the option of loading their numbered bags into the schools buses(One of announcers quote "Don't be afraid, we are not the airlines, your baggage will not be lost and will reach your destination on time..") or donating to charity. The walk was about half a mile. At 10.40 the race started. I remember seeing people at every mile, kids waving and trying to give high 5’s. It was really a good experience. There were old people (75yr+), came across a blind runner who was running with his support runner. I remembered the advice from A&R to go slow, so I started out slow. At about the 12th mile, I felt a knot on the right side of my abdomen. I slowed down, walked and was able to shake it off. From the 13th mile, i went pretty slow, I stopped at every water stop, had an energy bar that I picked from the village. The Wellesley college had a stretch of supporters "The scream Tunnel", the girls were pretty loud and had pretty interesting signs "I am from Texas/Italy, kiss me". Some runners were courteous enough to respond! Things got difficult towards the 19th mile. At the 19th mile, found Ashok who was clicking pictures and I heaved a sign of relief. I managed to pick up my pace. Ashok really helped, he was talking, asking questions and I vaguely remember what I was answering. I do remember him keeping count and updating me about the number of times I was High 5’ing the girls along the way! I think I ran my fastest mile with him. Around the 24th mile, he said he would have to turn back, but still was kind enough and ran along till the finish line. He motivated me at every stop, I am really thankful that he ran alongside me – and all this while with a backpack and a heavy camera! After reaching the finish line, I was really happy to meet Lahari, Aaditya, Rahul, Priyanka, Ruma, Shubam and Anand. Was able to recover a little at Anand's place. I felt Elated that it was finally over.
After Thoughts: A fact that I came to know about recently was that there is an indoor track in the YMCA which I never knew and ran only on the treadmill. I knew all the while that I had not trained well, but I do think, every year it would be around the same time and I would have had the same reasons to complain, about the weather and all. I am not sure if I would have got the same opportunity. I feel happy that I was able to complete something that i thought about 3 years ago and I am thankful to all of you who supported me in this ordeal. If not for Asha, I would not have met most of my friends and would never have had the chance to run the Boston Marathon. Thanks to Lahari, without her support, I would not have completed it either, she didn't complain for we could not travel much, the whole of last year. My friends and family members were in my thoughts while I trained and ran. I am sure most of you folks can qualify for the BM and finish it at some point of your life. It is a good event to cherish. I like Steve's Stanford's commencement quote from a back cover "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish". I feel I did, at least for two months of my life.